PARKERSBURG - Kenneth Bailey kept the crowded room of the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library laughing and learning during his talk on the Civil War Monday.
Bailey, a representative of the West Virginia Humanities Council, spoke on the legal issues surrounding the Civil War and the state of West Virginia's involvement. The presentation, titled "Scratch 'em and Sue 'em: Post Civil War Legal Issues," began with the differences between eastern and western West Virginia and followed with the cases of Charles James Faulkner.
Faulkner was a prominent lawyer during the Civil War era because he was one of the only attorneys able to practice law in the state during the time, Bailey said.
Photo by Jeff Baughan
Kenneth R. Bailey speaks to the Wood County Historical Society Monday at the Parkersburg-Wood County Public Library on the topic of 'Scratch ‘Em and Sue ‘Em - Post Civil War Legal Issues.'
Bailey discussed that before banks played an important role in society, people would approach the more prominent members of their communities, or relatives, for loans. The only means of documentation that these loans were taken out was to write notes regarding the IOU.
"That note was collateral and liquid enough so that that person could take it and use it to pay someone else," Bailey said. "And eventually if somebody wanted to collect (the money) the original debtor had forgotten all about this loan and was sued, so these lawsuits were very common."
This was one of the issues brought about by many people of the era because it contained a major reason to spark lawsuits.
The impact of these lawsuits was not only the result of disputes between communities, it also stunted West Virginia's growth in social development and education, Bailey said. Especially hit was education which was at practically a stand-still for four years in areas of the state.
However, according to Bailey, by 1904 the state superintendent of schools released a statement that the number of male teachers tripled after the Civil War. This was due to the suspension of the test oaths that all teachers were required to take. Lawyers believed the test oath was unconstitutional.
"The court, after looking at all of this, said number one it's not unconstitutional because the state gets to decide who's a lawyer; the federal government doesn't decide," Bailey said, "It's a state issue not a federal."
The test oath, or loyalty oath, stated that any official, whether county, city, or state-level officials, must swear to the oath. West Virginia followed suit to Virginia's actions to establish the oath.
In 1863, those taking the oath had to swear to support the constitution of West Virginia and the U.S., never have taken up arms against the state, or given aid or comfort to any who have, Bailey said. This would include family members, spouses, and many people affiliated with Confederate soldiers at the time. The new ordinance would prohibit many of them from taking jobs at those levels of government.
According to Bailey, the Republican legislators were intimidated by returning soldiers after the Civil War because they believed they would return to take their jobs and change the laws. The officials came up with these oaths in order to protect their involvement in the legal issues of the state of West Virginia during the war, Bailey said.